While You Weren’t Looking The National Security Council Changed

Lost in all falderal about the refugee bans and protests at airports was an Executive Order, which reorganized the National Security Council (NSC). That reorganization excludes the Chairman of The Joint Chiefs (CJCS) from regular committee meetings and instead has him attend only when his/her expertise is needed. Moreover, it installs the controversial White House adviser Steve Bannon as a permanent member.

This is an especially worrisome development as the military members are specifically trained to develop estimates and play the role as the strongest advocate AGAINST their own position. The CJCS provides presidents and the national command authority apolitical continuity.

The second part of order is the ascension of Mr. Bannon as a permanent member. Mr. Bannon is a longtime rabble-rouser and purveyor of questionable journalistic products. He has been accused of catering to white nationalists at Breitbart News.

It is important to remember that during the campaign Mr. Trump was quick to remind that he “knows more than the generals.”

While council and committee assignments lack the visibility of protests at airports, it is in these bodies that policy and priority are determined. Assigning the right people matters. By adding Mr. Bannon and subtracting the CJCS president, Trump may be creating a body that lacks the gravitas needed for complex, dangerous decisions.

The Value of Work; Why Our Impacts May be Larger Than Our Point of View

I was recently sitting in a meeting and one of the principals was waxing philosophical about his approaching retirement and said that if you wanted to see what impact a person can have on an organization stick your hand in a bucket of water and pull it out. That is how much impact a person can have, he said.

If you believe in that kind of rot, than this blog entry is not for you.

In the words of Sheldon Cooper, that’s a lot of hokum, hogwash — bravo sierra of the highest order.

Can you imagine working some place for about 40 years only to come to the final point where none of it mattered; that your life’s work was valueless and without impact? So sad, so fatalistic, and so wrong; so completely wrong. At least that’s how I view the world.

As we go through our lives we don’t know what has been impactful; we are too close to our lives.

One day I got a box of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies and was walking back to my office, snacks in hand when I happened upon a woman in a chair crying. I stopped, sat beside her and shared my cookies. It was just a gesture by me, but too her it meant the world. And that’s my point; we are impactful where we work not only by what we do, but also how we reach out to one another.

My grandmother used to say, “Tis a lucky man who has a job. Tis a blessed man who has a job he loves.” I understand not all of us are blessed in the workplace, but I also understand that each of us is lucky. And the unblessed among us (using my grandmother’s definition) should still give their work-lives value by treating others like we are blessed.

All of us are impactful where we work; that is absolutely true. We spend far too much time at work for it to be otherwise. It’s just impossible.

So the next time anybody tries to sell you the hand in a bucket of water analogy, reach out and hug them, because they need it. It must be hard to go through life so fatalistic.

‘Strategic Doing’ Showcased at ETA Region 2 — Bravo Leo Miller!

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration’s Region 2 state leader’s meeting held Thursday March 12, 2015 in Philadelphia was an excellent example of reaching out for new approaches to deal with the complex challenges wrought be the advent of the new Workforce Innovational and Opportunity Act.

Instead of reviewing –ad nauseam – lagging employment indicators and performance measures in hopes of figuring out what state is (or rather was) failing in one arbitrary data dump or another where the presenters and offenders are equally uncomfortable, because the old info is about as relevant as a Ouija Board foretelling, Region 2, under the leadership of Leo Miller, chose rather, to chart new ground by presenting tools we just may be able to use.

Ed Morrison from Purdue explains Strategic Doing at a recent Region 2 Leadership Meeting
Ed Morrison from Purdue explains Strategic Doing at a recent Region 2 Leadership Meeting

Strategic doing – not strategic planning – is a methodology championed by Ed Morrison, of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Mr. Morrison posited a simple premise – instead of a top driven strategic planning model eventually where groups of well-intentioned staff officers worry about task assignment and punishment-based metrics, the same well-intentioned staff officers work in a lateral environment where tasks are divvied up trusted partners and assignments are grounded in “framing questions.”

A lot of words – I know. I was attempting to sound erudite and official.

Let me put it this way. Strategic Doing requires a mind-shift. Instead of a strict mission analysis where we take a leader’s vision and implement a project based on that vision by discerning implied and specified tasks, we instead start with a question, which frames all follow on conversations.

For example, a recent vision statement from the U.S. Department of Labor says:

Excerpts from TEGL 19-15
Excerpts from TEGL 19-15

Suppose though, instead of that statement, which requires deep analysis, we gather experts we value and trust and ask this, “If we were to make a truly integrated employment system that was responsive to the needs of employers and job seekers, which projected needs into the future and also provided for the most vulnerable of us. What would that look like?”

That is significantly different than stuffing solutions in boxes based on checklists developed through task analysis and never tapping into the creativity many people have. There is a cultural intuition borne of experience, which can help guide organizations through turbulent times.

I am not eschewing deep analysis, rather I am suggesting Strategic Doing can widen the tool kit and produce a more thorough planning cycle once we frame issues as questions rather than over analyzing. There is a place for deep analysis it is widely important, but working with people one trusts and values to create a common vison might be a more powerful approach.

The Strategic Doing Mr. Morrison championed was not a “touchy feely” brocade-coat, with Donovan playing in the background, approach to planning or management. Rather the central foundation appears to be embracing 30-day increments of metric-based tasks needed to accomplish the group’s vision.

Mr. Morrison encouraged the groups to complete a “Big Easy” (aka low hanging fruit, an easy to complete high impact task) in the first 30 days of work to get some success under its belt. Follow on tasks are also broken into manageable 30, 60, 90 day increments as the group gets more experience using Strategic Doing. I’m not sure how much I embrace the Big Easy for fear of embracing too much low hanging fruit, there is a lot of high hanging fruit that has to be dealt with in the next 15 months, but maybe there is something to it all.

Even so, the fact that Mr. Miller tried something different to influence the planning discussion sets a wonderful tone for Region 2 as it moves toward WIOA implementation and planning, giving the state’s new tools with which to take on the daunting task of redesign.

To find to more about strategic doing go to http://bit.ly/1EjxAlu

This blog does not reflect any opinion of the Delaware Workforce Development Board or the Delaware Department of Labor. These are my thoughts written to stimulate conversation among workforce professionals.

Why I Am Heartbroken — Youth Gun Violence

I’m not sure where this post it is going to end.

I’m not hopeful. I suppose I should think it out a bit better, but there really is no reason. Stream of consciousness is probably more appropriate anyway.

One of my duties at work is to go to meetings – tons of them – and take notes, or add an opinion or two, or be the proverbial devil’s advocate; I’m good at it. Rarely do they affect me at a deep personal level.

This morning the Delaware Workforce Investment Board – of which I am deputy director – had its quarterly youth council meeting.

We discussed the usual topics – youth program funding, changes in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and a pretty cool scholarship program we’re standing up to help youth fill in some gaps.

And then it changed.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, one of the members starting talking about youth violence – particularly gun violence in Wilmington Delaware. Each of the ten or so people on the Youth Council had a story of young people who had been in their charge and had been killed in the streets of Wilmington.

It is so devastating that one of the people – a youth service provider – mentioned she had to get counselors and training for her staff because it was common that clients of theirs get murdered.

Can you imagine?

There you are, providing services to a disadvantage kid — helping the little guy or gal craft a future, overcome hurdles, and get ready to take the next steps – only to have that young person gunned down for almost nothing. It has to be devastating.

One women, who works with incarcerate youth, told us that she had an auditorium full of kids and asked how many of them or a member of their immediate a family, been shot or shot at. She said ¾ of the auditorium raised its hands.

It’s not confined to any single area, neighborhood, or street. It is ubiquitous in Wilmington and leaders are doing lots of somethings to get a handle on it, but it seems to have careened out of control.

And there I sat – having just recorded motions and votes for programs that young people have to be alive to attend.

And I got this sick feeling we’ve become guy, flipping starfish from the beach into the ocean.

Throttled By Seminar: Why Outside-In® Has Me Pacing the Floor At Night

Beth Bunting Arnhholt
Beth Bunting Arnhholt, Vice President of Integrated Talent Management for Comcast/NBC Universal

I went to a pretty great seminar last week on Thursday, 29Jan 2015, put on by Outside-In®. Seminar: Influencing Cultural Transformation – One Small Step at a Time. The guest speaker, Beth Bunting Arnholt, vice president of Integrated Talent Management for Comcast/NBC Universal, was captivating in the way of most big thinkers.

There is a seminar axiom I always keep in mind when listening to big thinkers like Ms. Arnholt, “Take the best and leave the rest.” And although there was very little to leave behind from her presentation, there were some pearls shinier than others.

Either her second or third slide haunts me a bit. It was a quote from Edgar H. Schein former professor at MIT and leadership and organizational culture authority – another big thinker to note. The slide defined organizational culture as, “A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way you perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”

Boy, that’s something. The phrase, “that has worked well enough to be considered valid,” is – while undoubtedly true – enough to keep leaders pacing the floor at night and start smoking and drinking again.

It’s not that something worked well, or is a preferred method, or even a good idea, but rather that it works well enough. Hokey smokes Bullwinkle, that’s terrifying!

I imagine smoke-filled rooms where a bunch ne’er do wells, spend their time collectively dodging proverbial bullets, patting themselves on the back and saying, “Yep, good one! That worked well enough!”

I want to cry when I think of the enormity and truth of the definition. It is so obvious now after listening to Ms. Arnholt why organizational change is the dominion of Hercules and Sisyphus – it’s hard and there is good chance you’ll be run over by a boulder along the way.

Though she only talked for a while, she made some good points about boulder avoidance. There were several points, but as I cut through it all, a lot comes back to the “vision thing.”

Ms. Arnholt said:

  1. You have to define the future, by knowing what you want and why you want it.
  2. You have to spark the fire, by dealing with a present day situation that will get you toward your vison.
  3. You have to fan the flame, by connecting the dots and helping the future grow.

But more than that, I took away from her presentation the same things I learned at the Infantry Officers Basic Course so many years ago:

  1. Identify the end state – what does success look like?
  2. Begin with the end in mind – what are our small steps along the way and how do we measure the journey?
  3. Lead enthusiastically.
  4. Take blame, never credit.
  5. And remember no plan survives first contact with reality.

After having my psyche rattled by her second slide, one of her final slides put it back into perspective. “It’s not getting one person to go a mile; it’s getting a thousand people to go one step.”